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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Mini-review: A Wizard' Forge by A, M. Justice (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


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OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: A Wizard's Forge is a debut that intrigued me with its mix of SF and fantasy. Very few books have done so, and one of the most underrated ones out there is the Coldfire trilogy by C. S. Friedman.

A Wizard's Forge begins with with Vic, a young woman who becomes the youngest logkeeper. A logkeeper is a person who are charged with the preservation of the log records of the spaceship that brought the human populace to the planet known as Knownearth. Vic is a person whose youth hides her brilliant mind and the author really showcases her mental aptitude. Vic however is captured by slavers who take her to the city of Traine. Wherein she’s forced to be a mistress to the lord of the region Lornk Korng. Over the next few months, she suffers psychologically and physically. But soon events arise wherein she gets a chance to truly fulfill her potential and the plot truly thickens.

Besides Vic, we get a POV from prince Ashel and it’s a solidly different approach with his story. The story is strengthened by the presence of both of its POV characters as well as the rest of the character cast including Lornk and his son Earnk, Ashel’s sibling and his parents as well as the soldiers that Vic works with. Amanda M. Justice really nails down the characters and starting with Vic who’ undergoes some horribic abuse of the sexual and psychological kind. The author never goes into the actual events but through Vic’s recollections as well her internal monologue, the readers get a proper idea about what it is and how much of a sadistic prick Lornk is.

With Ashel’s POV, we get to see things from his privileged status. While he doesn’t do anything terrible, we get to see things from a person who doesn’t have to endure indignities as the same as those taken by the slavers. I liked this dual perspective and another thing that the author truly highlights is the diverse nature of the world. There’s quite a few races as well as a magic system that is perhaps not quite entirely explored in this story.

I loved the backstory of this world and it reminded me quite a bit of the Coldfire trilogy by C. S. Friedman. The essential common bit being that mankind travelled from Earth and now descendants barely remember their Origins. This is where the similarity ends as in the Coldfire trilogy, the world and its inhabitants are hostile to mankind whereas in Amanda’s Knownearth. Humanity has been able to successfully transplant itself while coming up with some new origin stories. I would have loved to read about the backstory and how and why the inhabitants survived. But with this being volume one, I think I can wait to see how Amanda Justice illuminates the past.

There were a couple of drawbacks with this book for me. Namely the pace of the story which really isn’t the quicksilver kind. Perhaps this was intentionally done as the author slowly and surely raised the stakes and gives us a very emotionally resonant climax. The second point was that the magic system isn’t quite properly explained. Sure Vic is able to do things as are a few others but its cloaked in secrecy (especially the forest sequences in Latha). I would have liked to know more the forests and trees as well as how the world affected mankind. Maybe it will be revealed in the sequels.

CONCLUSION: Amanda M. Justice’s debut is a particularly solid effort that is dark and refreshingly unique. With characters that resonate and a prose style that is spartan but conveys the truth effectively. A Wizard’s Forge is a SPFBO debut that missed out on the finals but makes sure that the sequels will be worth checking out.

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